Digging into anything and everything that makes the CNMI tick beyond politics...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Of paved roads and heaps of twisted metal

The grumbling of my stomach and the sudden build-up of traffic brought me almost to the edge of irritation as the car I was riding rolled to a complete stop near a busy intersection at the Middle Road last week. Traffic very rarely build up in this island where the paved roads are so wide it practically takes forever if you want to cross to the other side.

It was two o’clock, I had to write my stories and rush on to another interview in a couple of hours. Waiting for almost an hour for somebody to pick me up from the wharf where I inhaled all the smoke and dust from the container trucks did nothing but to cool my rising irritation.

I craned my neck to check what caused the traffic when a few cars up I saw four wheels sticking out in the air from something which looked like an SUV. Instinctively, I fished out my camera and dashed out of the car as I instructed the driver to wait for me at the next street. Forgetting the heat, I ran towards the vehicle which seemed to be tired of running and decided to lie on the road. At the shoulder of the road beside the overturned SUV was a white Toyota Sienna van with a crashed windshield. In front of it, a woman with bloodied knees was talking to a policeman. But there was more to see.

A few meters down across the road, a white Ford FISO pickup had plunged into the drainage after colliding with a Toyota Echo, trapping the passenger of the Toyota inside the car. I kept pressing the shutter, having the side of the road all to myself because in this island, people don’t flock to the accident site and block traffic. Everybody stays a safe distance away.

Judging from the positions of the cars I could not understand who hit whom, or whose fault it was. What I know was that my knees were shaking as I surveyed the shards of broken glass and car parts scattered on the street and blamed it on the advent of modernization. I began to think that if the roads were not that paved and wide, cars would have run more slowly and accidents won’t happen.

It was gross to think that in a split of a second, four shiny and expensive cars were reduced to a sorry-looking heap of distorted and bloodied scraps of metal. Luckily, all the drivers and passengers sustained just minor wounds, thanks to the strict implementation of seatbelt rules. I had been in the island for two weeks and it was the second road accident I had witnessed, the other one involving three cars.

I have learned to buckle my seatbelt every time I ride not because of the $25 fine if a police catches you without strapping one, but because drivers in this island doesn’t seem to recognize the words “Slow Down”.

Ah, how I miss Davao and its small and crowded single-lane streets. I wouldn’t mind choosing the narrow roads with pot-holes and one-inch distances from one car to another. It is ironic but I feel comfortable in not having to bother with seatbelts (they don’t have any, anyway) every time I ride a car to anywhere. What a price modernization has to pay!

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